Pop Art is one of the most influential arts of the 20th century. It appeared in the mid-1950s. After World War II, with the rapid development of the American economy, new merchandises and shopping ways emerged. At the same time, new kind of media were born, and consumer culture began to play an important role in people’s lives. The cultural transformation changed people’s lifestyle and values. With the popularization of mass consumption, Pop Art was born, and it clearly expresses the American culture. Andy Warhol was considered one of the most outstanding artists of Pop Art.
Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and he showed a wonderful talent for drawing in his early age. But he stayed in his bed for a long time due to an illness at the age of 6. His mother, Julia Warhol, was considered as the most influential person in Warhol’s life. Her creative talents affected Warhol a lot. Music, dance and art were an important part of their family. Julia enjoyed singing traditional folk songs. She loved passing her love of drawing to her children. Warhol loved to draw since he was a child. His mother and brothers often showed him how to draw, trace and print images. Warhol ’s family saw his talent in drawing. So, his father had bought postal bonds to cover Warhol’s tuition for two years.
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Warhol’s drawings were marvelous and he had his own style of drawing. Even though he had these strong abilities, he still failed a class in his first year at his college. The class required regular essay work, which was the aspect that Andy Warhol not good at. Because of this, the faculty who graded student work couldn’t agree as to whether Andy’s work was any good. One of his instructors later said: “If anyone would have asked me who was least likely to succeed, I would’ve said Andy Warhol.”
Warhol said his work is superficial. Such as the Mechanical Reproduction. It is a print full of green Coca-Cola bottles. They are different in shade but identical in appearance. Warhol had always emphasized his interest in ordinary things, and the coke bottle was a common and ordinary object. Warhol’s idea of art was not to make ordinary things extraordinary, but let them continue to be ordinary. So, he just copied them without changing any characteristics. The coke bottles were repeated in rows, but all in perfect order, giving me the feeling of watching television rather than looking it as carefully as observe traditional artworks.
The Coca-Cola bottle advertisement is very successful because it expresses that people all over the world drink the same Coca-Cola, which is the commonality of people and the art Warhol wanted to express. Coke bottles and a series of works by Warhol all reflected the rise of mass culture in Western society. Warhol broke the traditional mode of drawing, combining business and art together.
During the long periods Warhol stayed at home, he listened to the radio and collect pictures of movie stars. It shaped his obsession with pop culture and superstars. That gave influence to Warhol, inspiring him created so many art pieces about celebrities. He used the technique of commercial reproduction to deepen the public’s impression of pictures by frequently using images that people are already familiar with. All of his artworks were silkscreen printed, and the images were repeated numerous times, making them look more like replicas.
These famous people’s images appeared so many times. Each of them was slightly different and repeatedly arranged without any inherent meaning, just like the goods on the shelves. There is no connotation in these prints. He just repeating and make the visual impression deeply engraved in the minds of the public. Andy Warhol used printing to make works of art infinitely replicable, breaking people’s traditional views on art. This was a strong impact on traditional art and pushed the development of contemporary art.
Nowadays, art gradually became philosophy rather than stay in visual “beauty”. When we look at the painting, we always want to analyze what the painting is trying to express, but in Andy Warhol’s painting, what we see is what we see. He broke the wall between art and non-art. It suited characteristics of modern aesthetics and its fast rhythm. This is exactly what our life like and art is no longer only for few people. It belongs to the public.
Andy was an optimist and he believed that equal opportunity and hard work provided him with the inalienable right to become rich and famous. He had a fantasy about his own personal wealth: he wanted to walk down the street and hear someone whisper, “there goes the richest person in the world.”
In a sense, the true meaning of Pop Art is actually images, consumption. It shows the decline of elitist culture. Warhol was such an artist with art history thinking and paid attention to experiment and pursued rebellion. Although his art may not fit everyone’s aesthetics, he changed people’s views on the way of art production and provided a unique interpretation of works of art produced in the time of mechanical reproduction. Although he insisted that there was no meaning behind his works, people can get the answers they want through their own interpretation.
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